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Steven Ash
from: Steven Ash
Category: Drumming

The Rain Dance

A clear azure sky supported by tall green pines circled the dance ground on the dry yellow sand hill, the only piece of elevated land on this part of the reservation. Wikwemikong, my new home was the only unceded reservation in Canada, on the north shore of Lake Huron it was the home of mainly Ojibway and Odawa First Nation people. On this warm sunny day we were going to experience our first authentic medicine ceremony, the Rain Dance.

Every one was invited, the white American and Canadian tourists were driving through the gate, sign posted “one dollar parking” passing by the old tractor into the dusty corn field and parking up as close to the dance ground as possible so they didn’t have to walk far after the festivities. Our family, seven children plus Ma and Pa were in the long queue for parking, all us kids jammed together, sweating in the back of the station-wagon. An old indian came to the drivers window, “Doctor Ash don’t park in there, we have a special place for you on the road, follow me! ” It was a long walk back but at least we were out of the hot line of cars and exhaust fumes.

As we passed the gate we noticed two indians putting diesel into the old red tractor and laughing together at their private joke, it made me smile to see such natural happiness. From the top of the hill the large pow-wow drums were throbbing, sending sound waves that made us want to hurry, as if we were missing something.

In the centre of the dance ground were men, women and children dressed in finery, feather bonnets, rainbow coloured frocks, their dance was joyous laughter in movement. The dancers moved with little steps, stopping and moving again, all in unison, just like the blackbird skipping across a lawn dancing up the worms. And then the drums changed rhythm, loud and solid even beats. The dancers began to stomp, dust lifted in the air mixing with the bright vibrating colours of legs, arms and bodies, feather tassels and head dresses swayed and bobbed it became a frenzy of colour, sound and smell, every part of me was captivated, every cell involved.

We looked up and dark clouds were forming around the trees, spots of rain dropped and evaporated in the dust, and then the drops filled the air as thunder crashed above the dancers. Rain came down in sheets, forming brown muddy torrents that flowed down the hill, dropping into the field were the cars were parked. The tourists huddled under jumpers, bags and jackets they fled to the safety of their waiting cars. The drums stopped beating, the dancers, soaked and laughing squelched their way out of the arena and the crowd began to disperse.

At the gate the “one dollar parking” sign had been turned around, on the back was written “tow out - $10” The first few cars made it to the tarmac, but soon it was mayhem with mud flying and tyres spinning. With a bellow of smoke the tractor and indians began to shift the stuck cars. Thats why the two men were laughing, they knew what was on the other side of the one dollar board.

The Blackbird or Amsel is also called the “rain bird” because of its dance; the dance rhythm for the human rain dance is taken from the rain birds dance. When the power of intention is strong enough amongst the dancers, their power of request is carried by the drum and the intent changes gear, becoming the throbbing call to Great Spirit to answer the prayer of the people, “Please pour on us your life giving rain” With all of our work we must remember the Traditional Chinese Medicine proverb “Ye Ye Zhe Ye - Medicine is Intention”. Sound Healing is the carrier of our vision, bringing purpose into focus; can we work together as a team like the rain dancers, watching natures signs, can we bring healing to the world with our sacred sounds?

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